Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur

by Mark Perry

This book is largely limited to an account of the Pacific war during World War II and the part MacArthur played in it. MacArthur is treated quite fairly - despite the title. For instance, he did not ‘flee’ Corregidor - a calumny often expressed - he was ordered to leave. 

It was Roosevelt who called MacArthur “the most dangerous man in America”, realizing early on that he had ambitions to one day be Commander in Chief. Unlike Roosevelt, MacArthur was a conservative. He was also autocratic and prone to clashes with others of high rank. Men like Marshall and Eisenhower disliked him, yet MacArthur and Roosevelt  were able to - more or less - work together with minimum clashes. They had a mutual respect despite their differences.

It is amazing that MacArthur was successful in the Pacific Theater. The European war took precedence with Washington and it was like pulling teeth to obtain the men and supplies he needed. In addition, he had to cope with the Navy which tried to claim ascendence over the Army - considering the Pacific “their war”. There was so much infighting between the Army and Navy that’s it’s a wonder we won!

The accounts of various battles, the invasion of island after island are harrowing. The men were fighting through tropical conditions on thickly forested islands, enduring terrible heat. The Japanese would not surrender. They preferred death - some officers, facing defeat, committed hara kiri - disemboweling themselves with their Samurai sword. 

The account ends with the surrender of Japan and mentions MacArthur’s governance of Japan but does not go into the Korean War or his ultimate removal from command by President Harry Truman.